is the oldest of questions. "What is love! It is a pretty thing,
as sweet unto a shepherd as a king," wrote Robert Greene back
in the 16th century. Four hundred years on, the poser is as tricky
as ever. Ahead of Valentine’s Day, theories still abound as to why
two people are attracted to each other. To some, it is a romance-laden
"bolt from the blue", a deftly timed arrow from Cupid.
To the scientists, it is a mixture of factors: everything from status
to age, similarity, and pheromones.
pheromones is like trying to find the end of a piece of spaghetti
in a big plate of spaghetti bolognese," says Dr Simon Moore,
a psychology lecturer at London Metropolitan University. "There
are so many areas you have to consider, despite the fact that we
came down from the trees to the plains thousands of years ago. Psychologists
still think we have these inherited cultural factors that underpin
attraction, which are different for males and females." And
women, it seems, tend to be more discriminating than men because
they are fertile for a shorter part of their lives.
So what is
the answer? "If you ask a load of men in a room what they find
attractive, it is often eye contact. It produces a physiological
response in the opposite sex," says Elizabeth Clark, the author
for Flirting for Dummies (to be published in June). "If a lady
is staring at you for 10 seconds, it’s because she wants you. Women
always get themselves into trouble by doing that. They think they’re
being friendly, but men interpret it differently."